Category Archives: preserves

Marmalade (Makes: 3/4 jars – Preparation time: +4hrs)

Seville oranges are in season right now so it is time to roll up your sleeves and make Marmalade!  I learnt a couple of things last week, firstly that Seville oranges have a short season from the end of December to mid-February, and secondly that there is a high concentration of pectin (natural gelling agent) in the pith and seeds of citrus fruits.  What this means is that to make marmalade you only need 3 ingredients and decent amount of time on your hands.

Now I confess before I embarked on making Marmalade last weekend I gave Mummy Mortimer a ring to see if she had any top tips. Her advice was to cut the oranges in half and to cook them first in a shallow pan with a little water to soften the rind.  It was a great shout and meant that I could make the marmalade in two stages and the rind was incredibly easy to cut into slivers.

My tip is to put at least 4 side plates in the freezer for testing when the jam has reached setting point.  When you think the jam is ready to test – spoon a small amount onto one of the plates and place back in the freezer for 1 minute and then push the marmalade gently with your fingers to see if the jam wrinkles.  If it does then you will know that it is ready, if not keep boiling.

The beauty of making your own marmalade is that you can adjust the balance of sugar in the recipe to suit your own palate.  I personally prefer a sharp marmalade so I work on the following ratio 750g sugar to 1 litre of liquid and then add more sugar as needed.

The process of making marmalade whilst lengthy is very easy and I recommend you giving it a go if you can get it your hands on some Seville oranges.  At the end of the process you’ll have at least 3 jars which you and either keep and enjoy over the next few months or give to friends and family as gifts.  Enjoy!

“A wise bear always keeps a marmalade sandwich in his hat in case of an emergency”
~ A Bear Called Paddington ~

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Mince pies

Well it is that time of year and Christmas would not be Christmas without a mince pie.  Mince pies do not last long in our house especially when all the boys are at home.  I tend to vary how I make my mince pies over the course of Christmas sometimes using plain pastry (a combination of 2 parts flour to 1 part butter and a pinch of salt brought together with a little water) sometimes I make sweet pastry (by adding an egg and some sugar to the pastry mix).  However, today I decided to make almond pastry which is lovely and crumbly and goes very nicely with the mincemeat.

Nothing can really beat a homemade mince pie, particularly when it is served with a little cream or brandy butter (a combination of softened butter, icing sugar and a splash of brandy).  If you have the time, do make the pastry by hand as it will make it far more crumbly and it won’t run the risk of being ‘overworked’!

If you think you are going to be short of time over Christmas, you could always prepare a batch of mince pies in advance and freeze them – if you do this, don’t glaze them with egg and sugar before placing them in the freezer, do it just before you put them in the oven (make sure you take them out of the freezer at least an hour before cooking so that they can come up to room temperature beforehand.

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Homemade pesto and a quick pesto pasta

On Monday we had our first frost.  My heart sank when I stepped outside and saw that our basil plant was not looking at all happy.  I thought we had lost it all, but as I cut away the bits that had been most effected I realised about a third of the plant had survived.  So there was no other choice than to harvest the leaves and make something with them.

Earlier in the year we picked, shelled and froze a couple of kilos of hazelnuts, so I decided to see how they would work in a pesto rather than the normal pine nuts.  I had no idea how easy it was to make pesto before yesterday provided you have a food processor.  I have decided it is definitely something that I am going to try to make more often when I have the herbs available as it tasted so much better than the shop bought ones I normally get.

I tried out the pesto in a pasta dish that I knocked together last night using a few bits and bobs I found in the fridge.  It seemed to bring all of the flavours together and wasn’t at all overpowering.  Whilst the pesto worked well with the pasta, I am looking forward to seeing how it works as a marinade with lamb in the next couple of weeks.


Homemade Pesto


  • 150g hazelnuts
  • 50g walnuts
  • 75g parmesan
  • 50g basil leaves
  • 25g parsley
  • 10-15 chive stalks
  • wine glass of olive oil (and more for preserving)
  • seasoning


1.  Place the nuts in a food processor and blitz until they become crumbs.

2.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor and blitz until you have the consistency you are looking for.  Add a little more olive oil if the mix is too dry and make sure you taste it to see if it needs more seasoning.

3.  Store your pesto in a sterilized jam jar, cover with some olive oil and keep in your fridge.


Quick Pesto Pasta


  • pasta (75g-100g per person)
  • 100g chorizo (diced)
  • 50g lardons
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 1 sweet red pepper (diced)
  • 1 mushroom (diced)
  • handful of green beans (cut into 1” pieces)
  • 2tbsp homemade pesto
  • olive oil (for cooking with)


1.  Cook the pasta according to the instructions whilst you are preparing the other ingredients.

2.  Cook the onions and lardons in a saucepan with a little oil until the onions are soft.

3.  Add the chorizo, pepper, mushroom and beans and cook for 5-7 minutes.


4.  Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the saucepan along with the pesto and stir until everything is combined.  Then serve.



Spinach, Chorizo and Ricotta Cannelloni

I have been thinking about wanting to make this recipe for a while.  However, the thing that has been holding me from making it is the fact that the Old Man does not like spinach.  This is a slight problem when it is the main ingredient.  So I had to come up with an idea that made the meal appealing to him.  Then it dawned on me that perhaps adding Chorizo might distract him sufficiently enough to get him to try it.  The idea worked better than I could have ever hoped, the Old Man actually gave the pasta the thumbs up!  Success!

I am not going to try and disguise the fact that this recipe involves a lot of ingredients but my advice is to be methodical when you approach it and it will all come together.  I got a little bit of help when I was piping the filling into the cannelloni shells as it made it a lot easier and less messy!

This recipe involves using a tomato puree for the base layer.  I had made tomato puree from scratch a couple of weeks ago when we were inundated with tomatoes, so I used it in this recipe.  Making the puree from scratch was time consuming and I am not altogether sure it was that cost effective; despite the fact it tasted good.  (For those of you who are interested I have included my recipe for tomato puree at the end.)


Spinach, Chorizo and Ricotta Cannelloni

Ingredients: (Serves 4-5 people)


  • 2 tbsp tomato puree or tomato pesto
  • 20-25 cherry tomatoes (halved)

Pasta and Filling:

  • 18-20 cannelloni shells
  • 2 medium onions (diced)
  • 3 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 100g chorizo (diced)
  • 400g fresh spinach leaves (washed)
  • 250g ricotta
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • seasoning
  • oil (for cooking with)


  • 1 ½ oz butter
  • handful plain flour
  • 1pt milk
  • ½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • Seasoning


  • handful of grated cheese (emmental or cheddar)
  • black pepper
  • freshly ground nutmeg


1.  Preheat oven to 180C fan.

2.  Spread the ingredients for the “base” on the bottom of a large ovenproof dish (I used a dish that was 20cmx30cm). 

3.  Now prepare the filling for your pasta.  Place the onions, garlic, chorizo, thyme and oil in a large saucepan and allow to soften.

4.  Add the spinach to the pan and allow to wilt down.

5.  Place the ingredients from the pan, the ricotta and seasoning into a food processor and blitz until the spinach is broken down and the filling is fairly smooth.


6.  Place the filling into a piping bag (I used a freezer bag that I had cut one corner off).

7.  Dunk each cannelloni shell into a bowl of water before piping in some of the filling. (It was at this stage I found it helpful to have an extra pair of hands).

8.  Place the filled shells on top of the base.

9.  Now you need to make your sauce.  Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and stir until you have a paste.

10.  Slowly add your milk stirring continuously so that you have a smooth lump free sauce.

11.  Add the nutmeg and season well.

12.  Once your sauce has thickened slightly pour over your pasta (if you are worried about it being too thick add a little more milk to your sauce).


13.  Finally, scatter over the toppings before placing in the oven and cooking for 30-35 minutes.

14.  I would recommend eating this with a freshly made green or tomato salad. Enjoy!



Tomato Puree


  • 15-20 large tomatoes
  • a glug of olive oil (for cooking with and preserving with)
  • salt


1.  Wash the tomatoes well, then remove the core and as many of the seeds as possible.

2.  Roughly chop the tomatoes, place in a large saucepan with some olive oil, cook on a low heat for 30-45 minutes.

3.  Pass the tomatoes through a sieve into a deep roasting tray.

4.  Season with salt, add another glug of oil and place in an oven that you have preheated to 160C Fan for 2-3hrs until it is reduced, stirring occasionally.

5. Place in a sterilized pot and cover with some more olive oil.


Sweet chilli sauce

I don’t remember when I first came across sweet chilli sauce.  However, I know it made a real impression on me when I was back packing around Australia with a friend.  One of our staple meals that could be bought just about anywhere was nachos with sour cream and sweet chilli sauce.  It was great because it was cheap and filling – perfect when you are living on a budget.  However, it was not until we went trekking in Lamington National Park and stayed in a guest house that I discovered the wonders of sweet chilli sauce in a dip.  Since then I have never looked back.

I started trying to make sweet chilli sauce about a year ago.  The first attempt wasn’t a wild success because I didn’t let the liquid reduce enough, subsequently I had a very thin, runny syrup that tasted OK , but wasn’t quite right.  My last attempt worked much better as it was more the consistency of runny honey and I played around with the ingredients a bit and the flavour was really good, not too hot and not too sweet.

Last week I used a combination of the sweet chilli sauce, my Chinese plum sauce and soy sauce to form a marinade for a pork stir-fry.  When I made goat’s cheese pancakes the other day I tried one of them with a little of the sweet chilli sauce and they went together surprisingly well.  But the most common use for the sauce in our house is in dips.


Sweet Chilli Sauce

Ingredients: (makes roughly 750ml)

  • 600g sugar
  • 400ml water
  • 400ml cider vinegar
  • 4 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 2 hot chillies (finely diced)
  • 1 ½” ginger (peeled and finely grated)
  • 1 tsp salt and pepper


  1. Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and place on a high heat.
  2. Bring it up to a rolling boil and leave it to reduce down until you have the consistency that you are looking for – then bottle.

A simple dip


  • 3 heaped tbsp crème fraiche
  • 1-2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • pepper (to season)
  • 3 chive stalks, chopped (optional)


  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, season with pepper, taste and add more sweet chilli sauce if needed.
  2. Serve with carrot sticks, crisps etc.

Homemade mincemeat

Well our kitchen certainly smells like Christmas.  The Christmas cake is going to be baked this afternoon so that it can be fed with an (un)healthy quantity booze over the course of the next couple of months before it is iced and presented on Christmas day.  The other thing that I have been making is mincemeat.  I have never made it before, however when I discovered a jar of absolutely delicious home-made mincemeat that had been maturing gently for several years at the back of my grandmother’s store cupboard I felt I really had better give it a go.

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Apple and rosemary jelly…

Apple and Rosemary Jelly is one of, if not the most popular accompaniment to a meal in our house.  It is a recipe that Mumsy started using when we were kids – I remember going out searching for crab apples on country lanes around where we grew up, for use in the jelly.  Over the years the recipe has been refined by Mumsy and it is great.

I have taken jars of the apple and rosemary jelly to every house that I have lived in and it has always been well received.  I was once informed by a friend of mine that it was the most versatile condiment they’d ever tried…  As a family we tend to eat it with pork, chicken, rabbit (really what I am getting at – is it goes very well with white meats) though I have seen people eat it with a ploughman’s lunch or as an accompaniment to cheese.

Up until yesterday I had never made the jelly myself is because throughout the years Mumsy has kept my cupboards so well stocked with apple and rosemary jelly that I have never had the need to do so.  However, yesterday afternoon I made my first attempt.  Under the watchful eye of Mumsy, we headed into the kitchen for a cooking session of industrial proportions.

This recipe requires a jelly bag.  Mumsy and I were discussing alternatives as not everyone has one (me included) and came up with the following options:  use an old tea towel, double up a piece of muslin or cheese cloth.

Apple and Rosemary Jelly


Stage 1 – before straining:

  • 2.5 kg cooking apples (roughly chopped into small chunks – no need to peel or core)
  • 1 litre water
  • 1 litre cider vinegar

Stage 2 – after straining:

  • To every ½ litre of liquid add 600g sugar
  • 2 good sprigs of Rosemary (sterilized in boiling water)
Stage 3 – once potted up:

  • Small sprig of rosemary for each pot (sterilized in boiling water)



Stage 1:

  1. Put the apples and water into a large saucepan cover with a lid, place on a low heat and leave to cook, stirring occasionally until the apples are soft and have broken down into an apple sauce consistency.
  2. Then add the vinegar to the pan and simmer for a further 5 minutes, before removing from the heat.
  3. Place all the apple mixture into a jelly bag and strain out the liquid by suspending the bag over a container making sure the hook you use is strong enough to support the weight!  (We tend to leave the mixture to strain overnight).

Stage 2:

  1. Once all the liquid has drained out you will need to measure how much you have so you can calculate how much sugar you will need as per the quantities above.
  2. Place the apple liquid, the rosemary sprigs and roughly ¾ of the sugar in a pan.  Place on a medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved.  Then carefully taste the jelly mixture and add more of the sugar that you held back depending on how sweet/bitter the apples were and according to your preferences.
  3. Once you are happy with the flavour, bring the jelly mixture up to a rolling boil.  After about 10 minutes remove the rosemary sprigs.
  4. Continue cooking until you reach setting point.  (Test – by putting a little of the jelly onto a plate, leaving it to cool and see if it sets).
  5. Once the jelly is at setting point, skim off any scum on the jelly and then pot up.

Stage 3:

  1. Before sealing the jars, place a small sprig of rosemary in each pot, pushing it gently under the jelly.

[Note – for some reason this year (probably a result of a very hot summer) our jelly was incredibly sweet and a little anaemic in colour; so we added probably around 150ml more vinegar to our mix and about 2 heaped tablespoons of soft dark brown sugar to improve the colour at stage 2.]